Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"Feministas" and the T-Word: The Aftermath

This post is written in response to Erica Kennedy's comment to yesterday's post, on her use of the word "tranny" in her novel FEMINISTA. I could have just left another comment on yesterday's post, but that would be an extremely long comment, and also I feel this is a topic that needs to be discussed. So I'm putting it up here, to be seen. Maybe some edumacation can happen.

The first thing I need to address is:
[...] do you realize that most people probably have no idea what you're talking about? I have no idea what CIS means even after reading this blog post. I have never seen that term. Your movement is not mainstream yet so you can't expect people to know what you're talking about or what offends you unless you educate them.

If you don't know what "cis" means, it is YOUR job to educate yourself. Ignorance is not an excuse. Did you even try to Google the term? "Cis" by itself brings up some random computer stuff, that obviously didn't fit the context in which I used the word; "cis feminism" (which is how I used the term in my post) brings up this:

Without even clicking on the Wikipedia link, you can get the meaning. In the simplest, most basic, most binary terms, cis is the "opposite" of trans: people whose gender matches their genitalia at birth.

The definition I have linked before on this blog is the second link, to RaisingMyBoychick's glossary. There are a lot of good terms on that glossary; bookmarking it would be a good idea.

So, as a normal person who comes across a term online, finding the definition of the term is not that hard -- that's how I figured it out, after I saw it on Twitter and in blogs.

As a writer who has written a trans character in her novel, my blog is not the first time you should have seen the term "cis." If you were going to write a transgender character, shouldn't you have done research into what that would entail? Shouldn't one of your beta readers or crit partners have been a trans woman?

She could have clued you in to the fact that a cis person using the word "tranny" is the same as a white person using the word "nigger."

You're right that people don't talk about this -- at least not properly or accurately -- in "the mainstream media." When you published that book, you became part of "the mainstream media," and it became your responsibility to learn how to talk about it the right way (not the "politically correct" way. "Politically correct" is what you do to appease irrational people that you totally disagree with but you don't want to hear their crybabying anymore).

The book is told from Sydney's point of view. She is the narrator, except for the few times when Max (or Mitzi or Liz; I think they each got one or two scenes) tells the story, but none of these other POVs addresses Sydney's transmisogyny. The other problematic aspects of her personality are called out, but this one isn't.

You even chose to silence The Raven the one time she could have spoken up for herself; instead, the scene turned into making fun of the weird "tranny" who just started crying when Sydney wanted to ask her about her penis.

And you don't think her getting fired from her cushy, well-paying job is a consequence?

Sydney didn't get fired because she misgendered The Raven. She got fired because the editors wanted her out, as Sydney and Myrna discussed.

My first thought when I read the scene where Sydney tells Myrna she was fired was, "And no one read the article before it went to print??" Doesn't Sydney have an editor, to whom she turns in her work? Doesn't the editor read it, and suggest necessary changes?

Even if Sydney were such a high-level writer she didn't need an editor anymore, isn't there a copy-editor who proofreads all the magazine's copy for grammar, spelling, and typos?

Isn't there a headline writer who reads the article and gives it a headline?

All these people read the piece, and nobody pointed out Sydney's blatant and spiteful misgendering?

And that's just for a regular, run-of-the-mill party-covering blurb. This was Cachet's STORY OF THE YEAR! Gareth AND Conrad show up to oversee Sydney's bleepin' hair extensions, but niether one of them bother to read the actual article?? Especially knowing how eccentric and sensitive The Raven was??

As the story is written, Sydney was fired because the bosses wanted her gone, and this faux pas was a good excuse. Sydney learned nothing from the experience (she still called them "the trannies" who got her fired and referred to them as "cross-dressers"), and the reader can't see the firing as a consequence of the transmisogyny since obviously the rest of the magazine was in on it, since not one of the gatekeepers said a peep about it.

If Sydney had posted a status update on her Facebook page about "just got back home after interviewing the crazy tranny," or if she had a blog on Cachet's site and she had blogged about the interview and misgendered The Raven there -- without the gatekeepers to stop her -- then the firing could be seen as a consequence to her actions. As written, it was just another political move -- easy come, easy go. She was hired for "PC" reasons, she was fired using the excuse of "PC" reasons.

If you had written something interesting, something that could enlighten the rest of us, I would have happily posted it on my blog. But there's nothing here worth blogging about. You're not trying to start a dialogue. You're not looking to educate. You're just looking to rage.

Yes, I was raging. I spewed bile onto my notebook. When I realized yesterday was International Women's Day, I thought the post was fitting, and typed it up without letting the thoughts simmer so I could elaborate on the issues.

You're right, yesterday's post was hastily (and angrily) written, and I could have done better. This is another reason I made this response it's own blog post, instead of just leaving a comment.

I'm not looking to educate. I'm looking to expose. It's not my job to educate you (and it sure as sh!te isn't Voz's job to educate you) -- it's YOUR job to educate yourself.

Since you're dark-skinned and I'm white-skinned, is it your job to educate me about the discrimination women of color face? Is it your job to kindly and politely (yes, you must say, "Yes'um," just like Mammie did!) explain to me about racism, and why I shouldn't call you "colored"?

So why are you telling Voz (and me) that's what she needs to do?

Just the fact that you have been called out on your use of the t-word (and your ignorance of trans* issues) should be enough to make you want to "share" this on your blog. I'm not saying you have to link to me, or anything -- I am by no means an expert on this topic (if you want to link to anyone, or ask anyone to guest post, I'd have to refer you to Voz). Finding out the hurt your words caused, the hate your words conveyed, the ignorance your words validated should have moved you to explore the topic and write about it on your blog. "Share" the information you just received.

But, if your comment was any indication, you are not interested in learning. You are interested in justifying yourself, and continuing to revel in your cis privilege.


  1. Thank you for both of your posts on this topic, Criss. I do think it's really important to speak up about these kinds of issues and to educate yourself either when you come across things you don't understand or you are called out on your ignorance.

    And may I just say that I think you handled the comments in your other post very well.

  2. Anonymous5:25 PM

    Well played. Sorry, I know that makes the whole thing sound so trite when this makes me absolutely furious as well. You've said everything that I would have said, except better, and I really appreciate it.

  3. I agree with this post, and the commentors here.

    I didn't bother too long with Erica because, it was evident from jumpstreet that she had no interest in learning, nor in basic respect. One cannot dialog with someone who believes that you do not even have the agency of naming oneself.

    When a mujer angrily defends her own slurring an entire class of women marginalized relative to her, that is not an opening to dialogue, it is contributing to the brutal misogyny which gets so many women like me killed. It is endorsing our murders and our oppression as a product to be purchased and enjoyed.

    Again, when a mujer uses the dehumanization of women who lack institutional protections and access she enjoys freely to sell a book, that is a threat to the lives, safety, and personhood of women like me.

    Make no mistake, she demonstrated enough knowledge about institutional transmisogyny to make a product that appealed to it. She demonstrated that in her view of the Universe, harming an entire community of women relatively disempowered to her was a small price to pay for character development. She knew hatred of trans women would appeal to the same audience that a book titled "Feminista" would appeal to.

    And there is no arguing with this level of ingrained belief in her own superiority and arrogance.

    Her demand for "dialog" reflects this; it was really a demand to bow to privilege, and to pretend her slurs were reasonable, and that trans women's lives are beneath hers, and our time and lives disposable at her whim and pleasure.

    That's when it's time to call out, and to regulate fools, not engage in a "dialog" that is premised on a disrespectful cissupremacy.

    Props to you for dealing with this fool as patiently as you have. I run into them every day, and I live with the fact that one day my life may be ended by some fool who believes as she does.

  4. Anonymous8:17 PM

    I agree with you 100%. I hope she reads this.

  5. Oh, I'm reading it. And I think Criss and Voz are pretty bad at promoting this cause so I hope they're not the spokespeople for it in any way. I don't dialogue with people who come at me on the attack.

    And this post starts off by saying when you google "cis" a whole bunch of computer stuff comes up. You know why? Because this is a subculture that doesn't have enough recognition to come up higher in a google search.

    Secondly, Sydney got fired right after the interview, before she got on the plane to go home. She never wrote the article. So that nullifies the whole middle part of this post.

    And yes, Criss, the task of educating people about what is discriminatory to me as a woman of color IS a task that I do shoulder on a regular basis. I wrote an email last year that got a huge advertising campaign discontinued. I didn't just start hurling accusations, I explained that it was offensive to ME and asked them to educate me about what they were thinking in creating it. My approach worked. You should try it.


  6. Try "cisgender", lots of stuff comes up and not about computer stuff. Or ask for clarification if you really can't be bothered to try a few logical permutations of the word first. The point remains this is not a "cause" it's people lives and the things that effect those lives. A woman of color should understand why, if something so deeply personal as a piece of your very identity is being attacked, someone might come up with a bit less patience than usual. But even so, that both voz and Criss are still engaging with you, obviously shows that they ARE being patient and ARE trying to share knowledge, not just attack you "for no reason" or some such thing.

  7. Anonymous12:48 AM

    Seriously Erica K. you make me ashamed to be a cisgender/cissexual black woman, really.

    Being a trans woman is a SUBCULTURE, now? Being a black cis woman make you a part of a subculture of black cis women? I didn't know about this...

    Also, from the way you've been responding to this, I get the feeling you do not think trans women rights are "important". I could just be assuming, but I'm pretty sure you're not willing to fight and argue for the rights of these women. And that's sickening. Maybe you should remember that it wasn't even a century ago that your cisprivileged black self couldn't even vote, let alone marry outside of your race in marriage. Heck, you probably couldn't publish a book as mediocre as the one that you currently have published. I wanted to respect you, I really did, but you're losing that respect. It's one thing to be uneducated on a subject due to the society we live in, but it's one to be totally dismissive about trying to educate YOURSELF, instead of expecting a group of less-privileged women to educate you about how the world is constantly screwing them over. Google. Yes, google. It won't hurt you. The simple fact that you won't educate yourself shows that you don't give a damn about these women.

    I pray for you. Yours is coming.

  8. The simple fact that you won't educate yourself shows that you don't give a damn about these women.

    I'd add to that that she's busy wasting energy shouting down people trying to school her instead of doing any actual learning.

    Erica, just cuz you've been disrespected in your life as a cis woc doesn't make it okay to turn around and do the same damn thing to women less privileged than you. you will not get what you expect from doing this.

    You need to lay off the power trippin, cuz it will not suit you well in life, even if you disagree. Showing yourself as so smallminded as to bully a group of women even less empowered than yourself is more than wrong, it shows a petty mind, and a small heart.

    You know the score, you have the information, anything else you do here is just more bullying.

    So, think it over, and do the right thing, or not. Ball's in your court, huhn.

  9. "Because this is a subculture"

    Erica, this was probably THE most patronising, offensive and outright flawed statement ever made. People's identity is not a subculture. Subculture is the community based around an activity like art/music/sports you name it. People's friggin identity is not a subculture. If it were, you could also claim that women as a whole are a subculture, not to mention POC like it was said above.

    You say the task of educating is something you DO shoulder. But that's not what Criss was talking about. Shouldering a burden freely and voluntarily is not the same as having the duty to shoulder that burden. BIG EFFING DIFFERENCE. I, too, take it upon myself to educate people about my disability once in a while. Mostly in the case where these people mean something to me. But is it my duty to do so? No way. IT is not your duty to educate people about race relations - that you do so anyway is your choice, and unfortunately also sometimes a necessity because the kyriarchy WILL start a backlash if you don't. I've been shouted down because I had the nerve to not let everybody know the intimate details of my disability. That does not make it my duty to educate others - but sometimes it makes it necessary for my own survival.

    Learn the meaning of duty, necessity and voluntary.

    "I don't dialogue with people who come at me on the attack."

    Too bad you just made possibly THE most common derailing argument. The TONE argument. How many times have POC been told that whites would listen to them if only they weren't so angry? How many times have disabled people been told that able-bodied/minded people would listen if only they weren't so bitter?

    You know what? If lives are in danger, which they very much are when it comes to trans people (and especially trans women), it's bloody obvious why people are a mite angry. And you, as the privileged party here, should accept that anger for what it is: namely an anger directed at a society that systematically oppresses and causes the deaths of trans women, a system that you have CHOSEN to represent with your behaviour. Anger is understandable, anger is justified. If you ignore good arguments, because of people's anger then you are proving yourself every bit the bigot. If someone smacks you in the face, and then tells you that getting angry really doesn't solve anything, when you yell at him he's a piece of shit for hitting you, will you then calm down, immediately forget your anger and quietly explain to him why hitting people is really not okay, but still a totally valid choice? Or will you just be more angry at his insolence? Hmmmm...

    So when you have verbally smacked trans people in the face, do you honestly expect them to just not be angry with you, because you tell them their anger won't solve a thing?

    Cis is not a hard term to educate yourself about. Especially not if you're already moving/reading in the circles where terms like trans and cis are commonly used. And that's something you really ought to be doing if you're writing books on the subject. If you were new to the subject you might have had an excuse, but since you're written about it, it's completely fair to expect of you the ability to do research.

    It is apparently also unrealistic to expect privileged ass-wipes to care enough to actually do that research.

  10. Erica:
    When you used the word "tranny" repeatedly in your novel, you cast the first stone. You are the one who attacked first -- Voz and I responded.

    If Sydney never wrote the article, why was she fired? What did she do? How did the transgender community find out about it? Why were "the cross-dressers" picketing outside her apartment?

    That part of the story was not clear at all. I was confused by it (maybe because my brain was too angry at the language and events of the previous chapter to be reading too closely), but from the way it was written, and the reaction of the general public, the only obvious conclusion was that the article had been published. I was confused as to from which trip she was returning, but if there was already all this outrage and rioting and picketing going on, time had to have elapsed between the interview and the firing. (Even if The Raven alerted the trans community about the way Sydney treated her, via Internet she did not have in her remote spa, there would not be enough time for Syndey to be fired on her return flight from the interview and to have such an uproar from the public.)

    I'm glad "your approach" worked in one specific isolated situation. Congratulations. I'm trying to be civil, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

  11. Thank you, everyone, for your comments. And thank you for addressing the "subculture" thing -- I was going to, but didn't have the right words. You all did, and much better ones than mine.

  12. Wow. It is sad how quickly those who have been oppressed, and thus you'd think would know better, can turn around and do the exact same to others.

    Erica K, Criss is not attacking here. If this is an "attack" then I don't know how you deal with bad reviews or anyone else who might happen to disagree with you. Because she is being incredibly civil and patient in trying to show you how badly you effed up here, and you're just pouting and kicking back like a spoiled 5 year old child.

    "Subculture?" Good lord, woman.

  13. ps- Thanks, Criss, for writing this and helping bring this issue more into light. I knew the t-word wasn't proper to use, but didn't know it had that bad of a connotation. Now I know, and can speak up if I hear others using it.